Many, many years ago now, on a cold Calgary day, I sought out some warmth at lunch time at a local artisan soup and sandwich shop.
Such places are much more common now, but back then all I knew was that the fresh baked bread looked delicious and the smell coming from the place was divine. Also, I was cold and hungry.
They had as one of their soup specials that day something that they called “West African Peanut Soup,” which felt to me like it was all of the comfort of a bowl of tomato soup, wrapped up with child-like joy of having a peanut butter sandwich as an adult. Creamy (but with no cream), a little sweet, a little spicy, incredibly hearty and filling and great for warming up on a cold day. It came with some of that freshly baked bread for dipping.
I was in love.
As to how authentically “West African” this is, I can’t say. After a lot of searching I found this recipe that most closely matched what I fell in love with, however it seems there are a lot of variations. Some recipes call for additional ingredients, such as bell peppers, squash, eggplant, or even rice. So, as always, feel free to adjust and experiment as you like.
I like to keep it simple. This particular recipe also happens to be completely vegetarian, and seeing as I am usually such a huge carnivore, sometimes it’s nice to make something hearty and filling that is also meatless.
This is a pureed soup, which you can do either in your blender in batches or with a an immersion blender if you have one (I recommend this highly). However if you prefer it chunkier, like a stew, go for it.
West African Peanut Soup
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp peanut oil (or the oil of your choice)
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust as you like, or leave it out, or replace with paprika if no spicy heat is desired but you still want a little somethin’-somethin’)
2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock (or the stock of your choice… or water, but it won’t be as tasty!)
2 cups tomato juice (plus more if needed)
1 cup peanut butter (smooth)
~1 tbsp sugar, to taste (optional. I also like using brown sugar.)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped roasted peanuts
chopped scallions or chives
Saute onions in oil until softened and slightly translucent.
Stir in cayenne and ginger, and until aromatic.
Add carrots, and continue cooking for a few more minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes and vegetable stock, and bring to a boil.
Let simmer for 15 to 12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Add tomato juice, and puree the soup, either with an immersion blender right in the pot, or in batches in your blender or food processor (be careful, it’s hot!). Return soup to the pot if necessary, when smooth.
Stir in peanut butter until well incorporated.
Taste the soup, and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Add sugar if there is not enough natural sweetness from the carrots and sweet potatoes. Add more stock, tomato juice, or water if you desire a thinner soup. Gently reheat if necessarily.
Top with chopped peanuts and scallions, and serve with some good bread for dunking.